These literary landmarks are the stuff of every bookworm’s dreams.
There’s a lot to take into account when you’re planning a vacation, but one thing bookworms never want to miss is the chance to visit a literary landmark (or five…or 14). Even if you’re sticking to a certain state or region, there’s almost always the opportunity to visit at least one place where incredible authors wrote some of their greatest works.
If you’re the road-tripping type, what could be better than traveling across the country to visit as many of these landmarks as possible? (That is, of course, a rhetorical question.)
From New England to California, here are some literary landmarks that are sure to make every bookworm smile.
1. The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Home (Lenox, MA)
The first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, Wharton penned classics including Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth at this stunning estate in the Berkshires. Walk through Wharton’s home and observe her actual manuscripts (be still, our hearts), then wander through the property’s 113 acres of beautiful gardens and trails. Wharton designed the Mount herself, so it’s truly an immersive experience.
2. Walden Pond State Reservation (Concord, MA)
In the early 1850s Henry David Thoreau headed to a cabin in the woods, and it was there that he wrote the words “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In 1854 this impactful passage was published in Thoreau’s iconic essay Walden.
Visit a replica of the one-room cabin where Thoreau penned the essay, and make sure to explore the wooded surroundings that inspired his work.
Fun fact: Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were next-door neighbors in Hartford, Connecticut, after both authors built their dream houses in the state capitol.
Twain, who moved to the Nutmeg State from Missouri, wrote classics including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn during his time in Hartford.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center isn’t your average literary landmark. In addition to honoring Stowe’s work, it focuses on promoting social justice. It’s the perfect tribute to the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who used her talent, privilege and platform to fight for the abolition of slavery.
5. The Algonquin Hotel (New York, NY)
In the roaring ’20s, the Algonquin Hotel served as the daily meeting place for “The Algonquin Round Table” (also known as the Vicious Circle). Writers, editors and critics including Franklin Pierce Adams, Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, George S. Kaufman and Robert Benchley were among the literary figures who met here for a decade of daily lunch dates. Today you can stop by the beautiful hotel to enjoy a drink — or rent a room and bask in the hotel’s literary history for a night.
6. Windmill at Stony Brook (Southampton, NY)
Located at Stony Brook’s Southampton campus of State University of New York, the Windmill has been named a literary landmark in honor of playwright Tennessee Williams. After artist Jackson Pollock died in a 1956 car crash, Williams spent the following summer living in the Windmill while he wrote the short play The Day on Which a Man Dies, a work that reflects on the untimely death of his close friend.
7. Truman Capote’s Basement Apartment (Brooklyn, NY)
For a decade, Capote rented a no-frills basement apartment in a friend’s home located at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn. It’s where he wrote his two most famous works: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. If you’re looking for a fancier Capote landmark, the Tiffany flagship store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan is a quick subway ride from the apartment where Capote penned the iconic novella.
8. Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home (Savannah, GA)
“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one,” Flannery O’Connor wrote in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose.
As much as we love visiting the literary landmarks where authors wrote some of their most incredible work, there’s something equally special about seeing where they grew up and how their upbringings shaped their future work. O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah has been turned into a museum, and the guided tour is well worth your while.
9. Margaret Mitchell House (Atlanta, GA)
Like Capote, Mitchell inhabited a basement-floor apartment while she wrote the beloved tome Gone with the Wind. During a visit to the Margaret Mitchell House, you’ll learn about Mitchell’s writing process, why she was shunned by Atlanta’s elite society, and how she really felt about the film adaptation of her novel.
10. The Poe Museum (Richmond, VA)
Although Poe spent a significant portion of his life in Richmond, not one of his homes is still standing. But don’t fret — the Poe Museum, which was established in 1922, holds an extraordinary number of Poe’s belongings, including manuscripts, furniture and even a pair of his socks (yes, really). The museum also features the Enchanted Garden, where two black cats named Edgar and Pluto like to hang out.
11. Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (Indianapolis, IN)
A visit to The Vonnegut Museum and Library is an especially meaningful experience for writers and aspiring writers. As part of the interactive experience, visitors can tweet to the museum’s followers using the same model typewriter that was used by Vonnegut and take a look at the myriad rejection letters he received. (See? Rejection happens to the best of us.)
12. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birthplace (St. Paul, MN)
Fitzgerald lived in this humble abode until the age of two. This literary landmark operates a little differently than other authors’ homes. Tenants who moved into the apartment building had no idea The Great Gatsby author once resided there — but when they received word, the residents embraced its history and now happily host visitors.
One resident even educated himself extensively about Fitzgerald’s life and work, and he’s eager to impart his knowledge to visitors. Although a plaque was added to the building in 2004, this is still considered an “unofficial” literary landmark — and that adds to its charm.
13. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House (Taos, NM)
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is a literary landmark and a paradise for aspiring writers. Authors including Willa Cather and D.H. Lawrence drew inspiration from the location, and the space is still thriving in 2018. In addition to a number of charming rooms (you can even spend the night in the one once inhabited by Cather!), the site frequently hosts retreats and workshops for writers and artists who are working to perfect their craft.
14. Henry Miller Memorial Library (Big Sur, CA)
Inspired by one of Big Sur’s most famous residents, the Henry Miller Memorial Library boasts an extensive collection of Miller’s letters, manuscripts and first editions. It also serves as an arts center and performance venue, and there are top-notch events on the calendar every year, including book signings, lectures and musical performances. The Henry Miller Memorial Library also offers writing workshops, so aspiring writers can head to one of the most scenic regions in America for an immersive experience. It doesn’t get much better than that.